By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jul 11, 2000 at 10:04 AM

Recently, with hit shows like "Survivor" and "Big Brother," we've made it evident that we're obsessed with other people's lives. Voyeurism is in, and ratings are up.

The start of this phenomenon can be traced back almost a decade. From the moment it debuted in 1992, MTV's "The Real World" has been turning ordinary 20-somethings into celebrities. People all over the world are transfixed by the show that puts seven young strangers together in a house, taping them while they eat, sleep, fight, love, and have fun. For better or worse, real-life TV in America can be credited to the same network that made Milli Vanilli famous.

On June 13, MTV premiered the first episode of the show's ninth season, set in New Orleans. Julie Stoffer, the now famous Mormon college student from Delafield, is representing Wisconsin. And though it is not the first time someone from Wisconsin is in the cast, it is the first time so much hoopla has surrounded them. But our fine state certainly deserves it, as does the person receiving all the attention.

In the beginning, it looked like it might not happen at all. "You know, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to do the whole 'Real World' thing," Julie explains. "I asked my brother if he thought I should, and he told me to go for it, so I did."

After the decision was made, the media came calling and stardom soon followed. Thanks to her brother Alan, Julie is able to handle it. "My brother is my bodyguard," Julie says. "When I go to concerts and stuff and start getting mobbed, he takes care of me." But she does enjoy all this extra attention. "It's cool; I like it."

Julie got much more out of the show than merely being thrust into the national spotlight. "The best part of being on the show was the trip to Africa," she says. "We did so much, and had so many experiences. I saw a whole different side of the world. It was eye opening."

On the other hand, she wishes more exciting things had happened in New Orleans, and admits she didn't like everything about the show. "I didn't like sitting around the house doing nothing and I didn' like going out to eat," Julie says. "I just didn't like that my roommates were boring. It wasn't even them really, it was like they'd get into this slump. I called it camera paralysis. Nobody wanted to do anything crazy because we were on camera."

When you're on the heavily-planned show, you can't just get up and go somewhere as a group, Julie found. "It was so much work and effort to do anything. You had to call the producers. It wasn't even that much work; it was just one phone call. But people would be lazy and wouldn't want to do it. And I would want to do something, do New Orleans things, and we'd all just end up going out to eat. So I hated going out to eat. I hated not playing. I would want to go out and play and explore, and they were more into going out to eat and to a movie."

For Julie, New Orleans itself was a new and exciting place, and she liked it a lot. "It was really fun. Jamie (another cast member) and I explored it up and down. I think we saw everything there was to see."

Her brother also got to see The Big Easy. His band, Zero to Nothing, played on Bourbon St. and Julie performed with them. "They let me play a song with them and it was really cool. I was thinking that this is best thing ever."

That was not the only time Julie sang her heart out. For a while, she was the band's lead singer. "Mark (the real lead singer) had some problems with his vocal cords and I was sitting in for him and doing vocals for the band. I just kind of fell into it. Then when I left for 'The Real World,' they started getting all these gigs and doing shows without me. So I'm not really in the band anymore because of the show and traveling. But they let me play Summerfest with them and I had a blast. And I love their band. Their music is power-pop and it's really good. I will always be Zero to Nothing's biggest fan."

"As much as I like performing with them, I am nervous about it. I can't deal with it and I could never be a rock star. My brother could; he could do the whole music video and concert thing, but I was just freaking out about Summerfest. I'm not good at performing. I get so nervous and scared just thinking about it. I'm trembling right now. I mean, there were 8,000 people there."

In the future, and for the rest of the summer, Julie is taking a different approach. "I told my brother that for the rest of their shows I'd rather be a roadie."

As for the rest of her summer, in addition to going to all of Zero to Nothing's shows, Julie is working at Wholly Cow Frozen Custard, her parents' custard shop in Delafield. She says the show has helped the business. "It's been crazy, and that's one of my favorite things. People come in and say that they saw me at Summerfest or that they watched the show. I get to meet a lot of people and it's really cool."

Meeting new people is what Julie likes best and is one of the reasons she liked being on "The Real World." It helps her look back with no regrets. "I'm glad I did the show, but I'm also glad it's over. Now I can go on with the rest of my life. But it was fun while it lasted and it was a good experience."

As for any people out there thinking about giving "The Real World" a shot in the future, here is Julie's advice. "It's not all that it's cracked up to be. It's good but in a very different way than you think it is going to be. Some people are really into the "oh, I'm on MTV and everybody knows who I am." But the perks are really the people you meet and the things you learn and the experience. And that happens through some very hard self-discovery. And it sucks to do that in front of people. So I think that anybody that would try out for the show would have to think really hard about whether or not they want to make all those mistakes and do all that learning and growing and changing on television in front of everyone. That stuff is embarrassing. I made some silly mistakes while I was there and to think that it's all known to the world is hard. Someone trying out should be very sure of who they are and should not do it only for the MTV thing."

Despite being a celebrity, at heart Julie is still a Wisconsin girl, and she does love our fine state. "I love Wisconsin. I have always been a big fan of Summerfest. I really like the people in Wisconsin as well. Everyone here is down to earth and friendly and loyal. People from Milwaukee and all over Wisconsin, they love their state."

In the future, you can expect Julie to stick around. "I do want to travel, but a part of me will always be in Wisconsin. There is something beautiful and simple about friendly and lovable people and that is what I find in Wisconsin. You know a lot of the world is really ugly and fake and mean. You go out and see that and come back to where you want to be. I am really happy to be home."

As for television..."I am not going to seek TV out, but if the opportunity arises, I will possibly go back on TV."